Saturday, 9 November 2013


Exercise. It's a bit of a dirty word to me. I was a lanky, late-developer; rubbish at sports and always the last to be picked for the team.  I have zero muscle memory, and nowhere does exercise represent a happy place for me. Throughout my life I've been tall and slim, despite my sugar addiction. Please don't misread this as fit. I've never been fit, and this was part of my pre-diagnosis problem. I ate what I wanted without putting on weight. I never had to 'control' my diet, nor cut down on processed, sugary foods for vanity's sake. This in part lead to my holistic unwell state. 

Many studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise (equating to about half an hour a day) can reduce the risk of cancer returning by up to 40%. To put that figure in context, it's almost three times more effective than the combined success rate I was given of chemotherapy and radiotherapy working for me. However, purely improving diet, or solely focusing on exercise, has a much lower effect on survival rates. 

Breast cancer patients in particular seem to benefit from physical activity, possibly because it has a balancing effect on oestrogen and insulin levels. Insulin has a mitogenic effect (ie it encourages cell division) on breast cancer cells. Oestrogen can inhibit apoptosis (ie stop programmed cell death) and is also mitogenic. Exercise also diminishes fat deposits, which is often where excess oestrogen and toxins are stored. And let's not forget that the lymph system, responsible for cleansing our cells, relies on our circulating blood system to move. Exercise gets the heart pumping, and improves blood (and so lymph) flow.

I've dabbled in exercise since diagnosis. I try to walk whenever possible, I do the mildest form of yoga (gentle stretching at best, definitely not gymnastic inversions) and I chase my children around the playground, but I have yet to commit to a regular, invigorating practice that would increase my heart rate enough to improve my circulation. 

As I've said many times, I'm a work in progress. There's always room for improvement, and for me exercise is the glaring omission in my healing protocol. However, I refuse to berate myself that this is Not Good Enough, and instead am making a concerted effort to Try Harder. 


  1. I've spent a lifetime thinking I was unlucky with my uncanny ability to put on weight just by looking at a cream cake! However, the recent studies on visceral fat etc have made me feel not so unlucky. I'm overweight by a good stone or so but at least I have that warning sign slap bang infront of me! My husband has the same problem as you, can't put weight on for toffee; but then it comes to going for a long walk and he struggles keeping up.

    Exercise seems to be getting more and more important the older I get but the reasons for doing it have changed. In my early 20s it was pounding away at the gym 6 days a week to fit into a size 10. But having a critical condition makes you rethink that doesn't it? Now I do pilates, swim and walk my dog because they're good for my mental state as well as my physical.

    And running round after your kids has to be one of the hardest cardio workouts out there...but a lot more rewarding that watching other people sweating at the gym! ;)

  2. Hi Nicola,
    Found your very interesting blog via article in my wife's Top Sante. I'm in awe of the depth of research you have done. (I'm 2 years after surgery and adjuvant chemo for bowel cancer) I've long believed in the importance of diet ever since years ago I halted and reversed osteo-arthritis with the Hay diet. Nowadays obviously its part of the survival strategy, though the more I read the more complex it seems to get and of course there are such diverse theories and recommendations - the primal approach seems to make a lot of sense too, for example.
    Can I just encourage you towards the vigorous exercise, it seems to be making a big difference to me the more I step it up, now running as well as swimming - nothing dramatic, just half an hour a day, and the gain is certainly mental as well as physical. No matter how wearily and grumpily I drag myself out in the morning on autopilot I always come back feeling quietly good and ready for anything. Stretching is fine but it's not enough I feel.
    Thanks again for the blog
    David Vesty

  3. Hi David,

    You certainly can encourage me!!!! Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and for spurring me on. Walking daily and weekly swimming are making me feel so much healthier already!

    How are you getting on? Are you following any particular protocol?

    With love